Feb 3, 2009

Who's the Enemy - The Taliban or the Paks ?

The news from the front today is that the Taliban blew up a bridge and halted the main supply route from Karachi port to the Khyber Pass. The attack took place outside of Peshawar, and as too often happens, the Pakistani Army security guards who were supposed to be guarding the bridge against just such an occurrence…were nowhere to be seen.

This is not the first time the Taliban has cut the roads or attacked convoys; a few months ago two large convoys were attacked as well as a supply depot, and some 150 vehicles (humvees, trucks, etc) were destroyed. While General David Petraeus (now head of Centcom and responsible for this AO) recently signed an agreement to bring in supplies and equipment via air thru the ‘stans to the north; it is logistically impossible to fight the war in Afghanistan without road access from Karachi.

Today’s attack is not good news, and it’s going to get worse. There are two issues:

1 - It’s not that our Marines and soldiers are short bullets and beans, because they’re not. The problem is that seven years of large FOB’s have fostered a mindset amongst the Army and Air force that if they’re not given regular access to several kinds of soda, taco night, an ice cream bar, or an omelet station, they can’t handle the stress. Nothing wrong with giving them coke, diet coke, or pepsi and diet pepsi…but to have both, and fruit drinks, and several types of bottled water…do you really want your son killed on a re-supply mission that was carrying diet sodas? Or carrying TV’s that they sell in the PX’s? There has to be a mindset that Afghanistan is a war zone, and the troops need to adapt accordingly. Creature comforts have their place, but it’s so grossly overdone that it costs lives.

2 – Maybe we need to re-define who is our enemy. The Taliban? Al-Quada? The tribes in the lawless North-West Frontier? I’d certainly add the Pakistani ISI, and perhaps their Army, to the list. Obviously Al-Qada is our enemy; this stateless group still acts as a financier to most any anti-west group out there. Probably the Taliban makes the list also, but since most of the Taliban consists of fanatical muslim poor from Pakistan, does this mean that the Paks are our enemy now? We surely don’t see much help from them in exchange for the $ 9 billion in cash aid that President Bush shoveled at them.

Very likely it does – and if we need to start guarding our Karachi – Khyber Pass convoys with Marines, then we’ve just widened the war by 150 million outraged Pakistanis. That’s a small price to pay, however, when the mission is to get sodas and fresh tacos to those back-office REMF’s in Kabul and Bagram.